Yesterday, I watched a movie called Gimme Shelter on Netflix. I didn’t realize that Vanessa Hudgens was actually in the movie until I started it, and even then, I questioned whether or not it was her. Now, my only references to her work other than the High School Musical franchise, was Sucker Punch. That being said, I didn’t really have any high expectations. I’d heard of the movie briefly before, but didn’t get a chance to catch it when it was in theaters. That being said, Netflix is a wonderful invention. Based on a true story, Hudgens plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a pregnant runaway teen. The film co-stars Rosario Dawson as her drug-addled mother, Brendan Fraser as her well-to-do biological father, James Earl Jones as a compassionate priest, and character-actress, Ann Dowd as Kathy, the woman who runs a shelter for homeless, young mothers.
The role of Apple is a far cry from Hudgens’ current project as the title character in Gigi on Broadway. Her portrayal is riveting, raw and honest. She gave the role everything her talents could provide, had the dialect down, and was vanity-free. She really shines and seems to leave the Disney star behind with this role. In a key scene in the hospital, Hudgens spars with James Earl Jones and holds her own against the industry veteran. That scene itself pretty much sealed the deal for me, giving me a new found respect for an actress who has often been simply labeled a teen star. Although the film could sometimes have the feeling of a Lifetime movie or even reminiscent of Precious, it is well executed and performances elevate it to a level that makes it worth a watch. It’s currently on Netflix and I am glad I stumbled upon a gripping tale with amazing performances.
There’s a famous nursery rhyme about the legendary murder from August 4, 1892:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one
In Fall River, Massachusetts in the summer of 1892, a crime was committed that became the basis for the modern day courtroom drama. Accused and later acquitted of the murder of her parents, Lizzie Borden’s name has become synonymous with folklore and a woman who got away with murder. There have been several film, even stage adaptations of the famous mystery and its seemingly innocent woman. Taking on the role of Lizzie Borden this time is Christina Ricci. Originally premiering on the Lifetime television network in January, 2014, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax has made its way to Netflix. Weirdly enough, I watched it yesterday, on August 4th, 122 years to the day, after the crime.
Things start off as strangely as the legend of the murder itself with a modern day soundtrack that continues throughout the film. I’ve never really been a fan of period pieces using modern music, the recent adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby being the most recent big-screen culprit. I found it annoying when Marie Antoinette, and A Knight’s Tale did it, and it still bugs me now. That being said, the movie is rather decent, but sometimes drags at parts. Ricci did an acceptable job as Borden, but from an acting standpoint, I found some of her movements and facial expressions to be a bit too modern. Then again, given its use of modern music, it might have been a director/actor decision collaboratively. Some things just felt too forced. I found myself thinking about the set dressing and costumes more than the acting at some points. And, from an actor’s point of view, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Clea Duvall makes an appearance as Lizzie’s sister Emma, and Billy Campbell plays her lawyer, but neither get enough screen time. Christina Ricci has always been one of my favorite actresses. I grew up watching her movies; from Mermaids to The Addams Family to Now & Then and The Ice Storm, she’s always been one that I’ve wanted to watch. This project is no different. Despite its slow goings and weird soundtrack, I’d give this retelling of the famous Borden case a watch.
I have a confession. One of my career goals is to be in a made-for-television movie. Preferably on the Lifetime “Television for Women” Network. I’m already able to cross the cheesy re-enactment series off my list, but the made-for-television movie has been hard to come by for me. What I wouldn’t give to cry uncontrollably in the bathroom with a bottle of fake pills and smash a mirror. Or cut & dye my hair and smash a mirror. Those are the cheesy moments I live for as an audience member and what I want to experience as an actor, at least once.
Several actors I have previous blogged about have been in made-for-television movies, movies-of-the-week, or “Cheesy Lifetime Movies.” Kirsten Dunst, mentioned in my previous post, appeared as a teen mom before it became “cool” to play one, in the movie Fifteen and Pregnant. Two-time Oscar winner, Hilary Swank, starred as a violent teen in Terror in the Family in 1996. Teen stars from TV seem to gravitate towards doing the made-for-tv movie( maybe because they feel at home on television): Melissa Joan Hart, Candace Cameron Bure, and Nancy McKeon all became well-known for doing several movies for television.
In my opinion, one reigns supreme, with so many TV movies to her credit, I stopped counting when I hit 20.: Kellie Martin. She has 63 television credits, most of which are TV movies. I remember seeing her in the 90s, in movies like Death of a Cheerleader and The Face on the Milk Carton. A lot of the movies were “based on a true story” or “inspired by actual events.” She’s played a killer, a mental disturbed teen, a young abused mother–pretty much every character description under the sun. Here are some samples of her work:
And just for fun, here’s the trailer for future Oscar-winner, Hilary Swank’s TV movie, Terror in the Family:
It just goes to show ya kids, don’t knock a TV movie, there might be a future Oscar-winning in it.